Draft prospect ascension a whirlwind for Winemiller
Entering the New York Collegiate Baseball League All-Star Game last summer, Robert Winemiller was unknown to the scouting community. For two years, he had primarily been a catcher at Case Western Reserve, a Division III school in Cleveland better known for its academics than its athletic prowess.
Though Winemiller didn't pitch at all in high school and threw just four innings in his first two college seasons, his strong arm led some of his coaches to believe he could be a successful pitcher. Winemiller went to the NYCBL seeking the answer to two key questions: Could he play baseball professionally? And if so, what position?
It took just five pitches in the All-Star Game to definitely answer both questions. Winemiller lit up radar guns with a low-90s fastball, and he mixed in a slider to quickly dispatch three hitters and leave scouts wondering where he had come from.
"That's probably one of the biggest life-changing moments I've had in my life," Winemiller said. "That one game, those five pitches really did change my life. I went from a kid at a small D-III school in Cleveland who no one's ever heard of to a pitcher who scouts have been talking to for a while now."
Now exclusively a pitcher, Winemiller may be the best prospect at a Division III school in the country. Both his inexperience and arm strength have been evident this season. Winemiller's fastball has been clocked up to 96 mph, and he also throws a slider and a changeup, but his control has limited his effectiveness. In 15 1/3 innings, he has struck out 14 batters and walked 12. All five runs Winemiller allowed came in one appearance.
Scouts are divided about Winemiller's prospect standing. His raw tools are enough to excite, but some find it difficult to look past his control and nascent secondary pitches. Winemiller will also have to overcome the dual stigmas of being a college reliever and playing for a small school. The only player drafted from Case Western was Eric Macha, who was selected in the 33rd round in 2003 by the A's. He is the son of then-A's manager Ken Macha.
Winemiller knows he has work to do to improve as a pitcher. With plenty of baseball to be played this spring, he said he will do all he can to prepare himself for Draft day.
"Keep working, keep getting on the mound, keep working on the offspeed pitches, keep working on locations, get reps in games, work hard in the field house, put myself in a good position in June to see what happens," Winemiller said. "What's unique about it is my goals and the team's goals intersect. I want to make myself a better pitcher, and I think the team's going to benefit the more consistent, the better I get. That's my biggest motivation."